Roundtable Talk: “Nouel”

“She sings along to sailor’s song
In a dress that she made
When she’s gone I sing along
But it doesn’t sound the same.”

Artist: Laura Marling
Semper Femina

Song Meaning

Women can be anything they want to be without being defined by their male counterparts.

“Fickle and Changeable”

Now that I am awake to unconscious bias, I can begin rectification. This type of bias is when you unintentionally lack diversity, be that in hiring employees, making acquaintances or consuming art.

Five Roundtable Talks in and I have yet to feature a woman. It’s Women’s History Month. I can do better.

Laura Marling is a perfect case study for this concept because she tackles this struggle head on. Last year, she recorded a series of podcasts entitled “Reversal of the Muse” to discuss women’s limited role in the music industry. Joined by female producers, songwriters and legends such as Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris, they talk about navigating a male-dominated environment on a daily basis.

Marling’s newest album avoided masculinity’s trap. Via The FADER:

“I started out writing Semper Femina as if a man was writing about a woman. And then I thought, it’s not a man, it’s me — I don’t need to pretend it’s a man to justify the intimacy of the way I’m looking and feeling about women. It’s me looking specifically at women and feeling great empathy towards them and by proxy towards myself.”

The title of the album is a reference to Virgil’s Aeneid. The full line is “varium et mutabile semper femina,” which roughly translates to “woman is ever a fickle and changeable thing.” So true, which is why I can hardly write about them.

I will not sit here and begin to think I know a woman’s struggles or dictate what she should wear or how she should act. I write what I know from a male’s perspective and unfortunately, it’s the majority voice. I have nothing to offer.

Here’s the magic of music at work: You can bring me into your world. Ever since music became more readily accessible through streaming services, I have been doing everything I could to diversify my listening portfolio for the sake of empathy.

Music can both reflect your own personal emotions and illuminate other ways of life. For example, you can boil down most popular music by the division of rich and poor or happy and sad. Though there are depths and cultures of which I have barely tapped, listening to angry white men shredding on guitars all the time stunts emotional growth. There’s that unconscious bias at work.

That’s why it’s important to branch out and listen to music written by someone with a different background, watch a movie that tackles uncomfortable subject matter or just share stories with friends. Every person you encounter knows something you don’t. It’s how we become more sympathetic and well-rounded humans.

I always fear writing about groups to which I do not belong. I support love and peace in general terms, identity be damned. But identity is a crucial part of the world’s infrastructure and it would be ignorant to ignore that.

Women deserve more than just a day, a month or a march. I am not here to echo their voice or sentiments, as I have a different voice of a deeper tone. I only think it’s fair that we hear them out, soak in the message and develop a conscious unbias to combat cultural stagnation.

In exploring how to keep the female influence alive in a music industry so dominantly male, Laura Marling tapped into the essence of art: Be who you are and express yourself in a way only you can. We already have enough men barking their shortsighted ideals.

Random Notes

  • In writing this, I remembered a time in which I could count the amount of female artists in my music rotation on one hand. That number has increased exponentially in recent years thanks to maturity and music streaming.
  • Any track on this album could have been the featured song of the week. Give the whole thing a listen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.